A Poem For a Thursday

The final chapters in Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the War by Francesca Wade are devoted to Virginia Woolf.

Her time in Mecklenburgh Square was right at the end of her life. 37 Mecklenburgh Square was Virginia and Leonard’s last London home before they retired completely to their country home, Rodmell, after the square was bombed late in 1940.

During her time in Mecklenburgh Square, Virginia wrote her biography on Roger Fry as well as her last fiction, Between the Acts.

John Lehmann, their Mecklenburgh neighbour and partner in Hogarth Press, described her final work as,

an unparalleled imaginative work…a poetry more disturbing than anything she had written before, reaching at times the extreme limits of the communicable.

The very things that I struggled with when I tried to read To the Lighthouse and Orlando in my early twenties!

My poetry appreciation has come slowly and with effort. The trick, I have found, is to find poems and/or poets that speak to you. So many poems can wash over me like a tsunami of words. When one sticks, it is a special moment.

Curiously my early failed attempts to read Virginia did not put me off the idea of ever reading her fiction. It was clear to me that I was not yet ready as a reader to do justice to her stories. A plan developed – to read her work in chronological order, whilst reading as many bio’s about her as I can. She was the main reason why I was drawn to Square Haunting in the first place.

In the meantime I will share two quotes, from two of her novels, that read like poems. Having just emerged from a migraine, Virginia’s appeal for silence resonated strongly with me tonight.

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.

Virginia Woolf, The Waves
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Empty, empty, empty, silent, silent, silent. The room was a shell, singing of what was before time was; a vase stood in the heart of the house, alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the still, distilled essence of emptiness, silence.

Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

The Virginia Files:

This post is part of A Poem For a Thursday with Jennifer @Holds Upon Happiness.

9 thoughts on “A Poem For a Thursday

  1. That’s an innovative approach to giving us a Thursday poem. And one I appreciate. Some of my favourite novels verge on poetry, Benang for instance, and The Pea Pickers (how’s the review going?)

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    1. I’m currently reading an eco-poet, Louise Crisp, and I’m impressed by her poetry lists, journal-as-poem, and poetry walks through the bush. It’s opening my eyes to how poetry is not just poetry and I’m also learning that creative types like Woolf tackled the blurred lines between fiction and poetry a long time ago! I’m catching up!

      The Pea Pickers review is still going. Maybe next weekend I will get some time to sit down and write a review.

      Glad to hear you liked Benang too. I’m planning on finally reading it for Lisa’s Indigenous Literature Week.

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  2. I like that you used poetic prose and I particularly like that first quote. I am moving this week (currently sitting in a hotel room waiting for our furniture to catch up with us) and didn’t post a poem this week.

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